A story of baseball
I feel like a less talented version of Jeff Foxworthy and his redneck jokes when I think about the way the world and the economy is working. It is kind of like "you know you are in the new economy when you have to wear a battery pack to charge all your portables." Or, "you know you are in the new economy when you wish you could recite all the kids names as quickly as you can the competitors' interest rates." I'm poor competition for Jeff but you probably get the point. Things are moving very quickly and we can not only feel it in our little business, we can feel it in the businesses we serve. So, I wanted to take just a few minutes to share what I am seeing and hopefully get you to look at the way this 2014 economy is impacting you and your effectiveness.
New Growth - Seems like every client we have is experiencing growth. Some are experiencing really fast, out of control growth. Some clients are feeling it less, but all seem to be dealing with the awakening of markets that remained dormant through 2009 and 2010. The result of this growth is more money, more challenges and more people. For us it has placed a higher demand on things like customer and client centered focus, accelerating leadership development and a strange and positive interest in better hiring practices. Craig just returned from New York, where he facilitated a day long program on hiring for a large trade group with the promise of many group participants interested in learning much more.
Time Demands - As everyone who reads this article will recognize, demand on your time has "shot through the roof." Not a surprise considering the growth and demands we are all feeling. Time is funny because it cannot be changed and we all get the same amount. As you look around, the people who manage what they have best are the most relaxed. From our perspective we are hearing requests again for time management training and we are feeling the pinch of taking people away from the workplace for development. Recently, we had a client ask to extent a development cycle from 8 full days to 16 half days with less emphasis on between session work assignments and to move closer to their company so that people didn't have to travel as far. We expect more of this kind of thing.
Optimism - Sounds pretty dark if you only read the two categories above but there is something more going on here. There is a heavy sense of optimism with clients. Maybe it is the hope that they will be in business more robustly than they were thinking a couple years ago. Or maybe they feel the resilience of living through the deepest recession I can remember. Either way, we can feel it and hear it in their voices. There has been a return to secession planning in earnest which for everyone who is involved means, "we will be here long enough to prepare our successors.' The requests we get are for longer engagements and deeper, more meaningful work. We continue to hear less “training” and more “development.” While training (technical and on-the-job) will always have great value and add vitality to peoples' success, we are hearing that people want growth and development for their interpersonal behaviors.
Emphasis on People - Everyone knows that if you do business with a company like Priority Learning you already get the “people thing.” That said, we are hearing a renewed emphasis on people. We hear “people” in the scale of the very large projects and the very important collaborative work we are asked to do. Over and over we are told that people are our most important asset, and a while back we started to question if people really felt that way. A strong return to values and beliefs in organizational work are also indicators. The clients most dedicated to the idea of retuning to value and beliefs are convinced that this will be their “differentiator” in the marketplace of the future and will be the reason people will choose them as a place to work and spend their lives.
Return to the Basics - In the title I promised a baseball analogy so here it is. I was a Little League and Babe Ruth baseball coach for a while and I learned some great lessons from the kids. Whether it was farm league, little league, Babe Ruth or high school ball it was always about the basics: run, catch, hit, throw and play as a team. The same is true in this post-recession economy. The basics are:
Build your Business on "Why" you do things and not what you do (see Simon Sinek http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action) - Build a set of values and beliefs beyond making money that people can relate to and align with. They will come to you, stay with you, serve you, be proud of you and make you proud of them.
Learn the People Business - Treat the people element (inside and outside) of your business like it is exactly what it is... the single most important element in your business. If you want more money they will make it, not you. If you want a better product, they will improve it, not you. If you want a change to happen, they will provide that change and not you. Develop collaborative processes to drive decisions to the lowest levels possible to foster ownership with the people who are close to the customers.
Form Just a Few Strategies Each Year - We get goal obsessed in multi-page documents that have timelines and accountabilities and then get dashed on the rocks when we don't get them all done, even though it has taken years off our lives and cost us relationships. Involve as many people as possible and as few strategies in numbers as you can.
Learn to See Around Corners - Sometimes we are so involved in doing the work we forget to look ahead and anticipate the next hope or challenge. Learn to talk frequently with customers/clients about their needs in the future, ask your people to give their best thoughts about what the future will hold, and for goodness sake, don't forget to dream a little. Every good business is founded by someone who wants to change the world. Sound a little idealistic? Please stay idealistic.
Have a safe spring and I will be back next month. Please let me know what you think would be good to hear about or just to say hi. It helps.
In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.